Thursday, May 26, 2005

Of Knuckleheads and Political Prisoners

“When your children are dying, you don’t worry about what the neighbors think. When the whole future of a race is jeopardized by self-destructive fads, you put public relations on the back burner.”

Anyone who has taught black, white, and Asian students will know that they do not work equally. Studies show it but you don’t need studies. Just go into a university library on a Saturday night and see who is there and who is not there.”

Thomas Sowell in “Bravo for Bill Cosby” (

I love it when the news gives me another example of a principle that I want to figure out for myself. The first example I wrote about was the John Bolton nomination in “The Problem with Bolton” on April 22, 2005. In that piece I claimed that “The truth is such a rare commodity in our political world that when we hear “it” we are stunned into a kind of silent horror as our minds grapple with the unexpected words and try to make sense of them.”

Now I can say that the truth is such a rare commodity among the people as well. Actually there are two examples very much related. The first is Bill Cosby’s indictment of our black youth when he stated: “Everybody knows it’s important to speak English except these knuckleheads.” The second example is his indictment of people who referred to “the incarcerated” as “political prisoners”.

The “knuckleheads” are young blacks who are not taught to value an education. What they value are rap “music”, baggy pants and the “cool attitude”. But then these same knuckleheads and their parents and teachers and community leaders then cry that they are discriminated against when they can’t get into college or find good jobs. This is why Asians outperform even whites in school – they DO value education and their parents are there with a “big stick” if they don’t study. It’s really very simple. Strong parents who keep their kids off the streets and their noses in books produce educated young adults who go on to successful and fulfilling lives.

The online dictionary defines knucklehead as “a stupid person; a blockhead”. So what’s the big uproar about Bill Cosby’s choice of words? If you don’t know math, American History, the beauty of the Sistine Chapel or where Colombia is then maybe you are a knucklehead. Why try to hide the fact that whole generations of kids are being sent into the world with very little knowledge in their heads?

Again, as with John Bolton, you have another person, Bill Cosby, who speaks the truth without obfuscation and certain types get in a tizzy. As the old saying goes - the truth will set you free…and more than that it will perhaps wake you up to the reality confronting you: Blacks, whites or Asians will only achieve poverty if they do not take their education seriously and consequently they just might end up as “political prisoners”.

As the 20th century philosopher and novelist, Ayn Rand wrote:

“Truth is the recognition of reality; reason, man’s only means of knowledge, is his only standard of truth.”

If our knucklehead youths and their parents do not face the truth, what they are not facing is reality…. and reality always wins in the long run.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Mind Corrupters

The educational foundations of our society are presently being eroded by a rising tide of mediocrity that threatens our very future as a nation and as a people…If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war. As it stands, we have allowed this to happen to ourselves.” (National Commission on Excellence in Education, April 1983).

On the occasion of my third son's graduation from a public high school this year, I felt glad that the long 20 years of schooling was finally over. Frankly, I never want to step foot into an American public school again. But I am a patriotic American and I cannot sit quietly by and allow the systematic destruction of the minds of our young to continue without protesting and demanding some rationality in this arena.

Over the years I have read all manner of very negative and disheartening things about our education system. The picture gets worse every year. The nihilists and terrorists of the world are not the only threats to our country and way of life. Our poorly educated youngsters pose an equal danger to our health, security and ability to continue inventing, innovating and discovering.

I recently read the results of the Association of Computing Machinery International Collegiate Programming contest where the University of Illinois tied for 17th place – the lowest ranking in 29 years of competition. China took first place followed by Moscow and St. Petersburg. We have not won that competition since 1997. David Patterson, President of the Association for Computing Machinery and a professor of Computing Science at the University of California at Berkeley said “the US used to dominate these kinds of programming Olympics”. The sentence has the ring of sadness and abandonment -sadness for our future and the abandonment of our young people’s minds.

Used to dominate? What is happening to us? Why are we constantly slipping ever more behind? Let’s make a list. I like lists –they clarify what the problems are and what needs to be done.

1. At a recent international math test American teenagers ranked 24th and scored near the bottom on tests of general problem solving.

2. Most of the Ph.D.’s awarded by American Universities in math and engineering have gone to foreigners. Thomas Sowell ( writes: “We have the finest graduate schools in the world-so fine our own American students have trouble getting admitted in fields that require highly trained minds.”

3. More than 42 million adult Americans are thought to be functionally illiterate.

4. Every day 3000 kids drop out of school.

5. The nations’ high school graduation rate is 69 percent.

6. A 2002 National Assessment of Educational Progress reported that reading achievement of 12th grade students had declined over the previous 5 years. Thirty percent of boys and 20 percent of girls were reading below basic level.

7. The NEA (National Education Association – the largest teacher union) was called a terrorist organization by Education Secretary Paige (he retracted his statement under pressure).

8. Students who select education as their major have the lowest SAT scores of any major. The same holds true for Education majors taking the Graduate Record exams, and the LSAT for admission to law schools. Top-notch teachers are hard to find especially in science and math.

8. Schools no longer teach kids to think and no longer demand excellence. Instead, we have students brains filled with leftist propaganda and fads such as: Environmentalism, multiculturalism, Ebonics, fuzzy math, whole language, bilingual education, calculators in the classroom, revisionist history, denigrating our founding fathers, white man as the cause of everything, and anti-Americanism.

9. Parental ignorance and neglect of their child’s education.

10. The refusal to allow teachers and principals to punish bad behavior.

11. The refusal to recognize in a very public way kids who excel in academics (no problem with the hero-worship, though, of our school athletes).

12. The doling out of A’s and B’s as if they were M & M’s. Giving high grades for very little effort and very little homework is part of the dismal “self esteem” movement now infecting our schools.

It seems to me a crazy situation when we continue doing the same thing year after year and keep getting ever worse results. If we keep buying into the same ideas that have dominated our education system for the past several decades then we will inevitably cause our own downfall and we will have no foreign terrorists to blame. To me it is obvious that education must be taken out of the hands of our government and handed over to the free market. If this is done the following will eventually happen:

Competition among schools.

Gifted students will be placed on a special science and math track early (by 7th or 8th grade as suggested by James Glassman).

Motivated parents will mentor their children and demand diligence at school.

Highly educated teachers will graduate not from schools of education but from the schools of their chosen subject matter.

The NEA will be abolished and teachers will understand that they must perform or they will be fired.

A code of conduct will exist that insists on good behavior in the classroom.

A rigorous school curriculum where an A actually stands for achievement will be in place.

Common sense teaching and honesty in the curriculum will return.

The “self-esteem” movement that has caused so much harm to kids by making them believe that they can have the unearned will give way to hard work and dedication to learning

An uneducated citizenry-one who does not know how to evaluate information and make tough decisions based on reason-is a citizenry that is prepared for nothing more than servility to their emotions and hoodwinking by politicians. While Asian countries are gaining dominance in the arena of the mind will Americans do what it takes to remake their education system so that it can compete in the 21st century? Are we going to be a nation of dolts with unearned high self-esteem or smart, creative and enterprising individuals who have earned their self-esteem based on character and a trained mind?

Abigail Adams recognizing the value of a good education sent her 10 year old son John Quincy to France with his father John Adams. It was a difficult and dangerous journey in those days and everything that could go wrong did on that voyage. Abigail, nevertheless, risked her son’s life for an education as she explains in a letter to John Quincy:

"These are the times in which genius would wish to live. It is not in the still calm of life or the repose of a pacific station that great characters are formed. The habits of a vigorous mind are formed in contending with difficulties. Great necessities call out great virtues. When a mind is raised and animated by scenes that engage the heart, then those qualities which would otherwise lay dormant wake into life and form the character of the hero and the stateman."

Do we, as parents and teachers ever speak to our children in such language? She is taking the subject of education seriously and advising her son that only with a well trained mind and a virtuous character can one cope with difficulties and become a hero. Abigail wants her son to become a man quickly because there is work to do and considers it a matter of survival (Knowing History and Who We Are, David McCullough, Imprimis; Hillsdale College).

The 20th century philosopher and novelist, Ayn Rand, defined self-esteem as “reliance on one’s power to think” ( Well, now is the time to think by those who still have the noggins to do so. We must see our schools for what they are: mind corrupters.